JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 295 : 20 May 2011

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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ABB resurrects Bailey DCS - CEO Joe Hogan admits mistake

About a month ago, the JimPinto.com ABB weblog had this message:
    "I was astounded at the way that ABB pretty much threw away its US installed base. The assumption upon ABB's part was that it would be possible to move customers away from Infi90 to ABB's product line. Perhaps this is the way it works in Europe. However, in the US this just put Infi90's installed base into play with competitors. The main beneficiary was Emerson - they deserve kudos, they saw an opportunity and took advantage.

    "Much of Delta-V's dominant position today is based upon former Infi90 customers. Today ABB's DCS position in the US is essentially non-existent. Frankly, I don't think ABB's 800xA product is really that good".

The ABB 800xA was launched early in 2004, quoted as designed to allow for implementation with the entire family of ABB control and I/O products, including Symphony and Symphony Harmony, which had emerged from the acquired Elsag Bailey Infi90 system. It was stated that these systems would have a migration plan, moving customers to the new 800xA by 2010.

Well, after seven years of telling customers to move to its 800xA system, ABB's CEO Joe Hogan led a reversal (let's give him credit for doing that himself) and resurrected the Bailey Symphony/Harmony/Infi90 system.

Joe Hogan conceded that the integration of Elsag Bailey and its Symphony products into ABB was not handled well. He admitted to being stunned by what ABB did to the Elsag-Bailey Harmony and Melody platforms, "because we thought we'd have a universal process automation platform that would take care of everything." So, said Hogan, ABB came to realize it needed to rescue the Symphony product line and bring it back as an integral piece of the ABB offering.

The problem is that the installed base has been a happy hunting ground for all the control system competitors for over the last seven years. Several of them offer their own products with well thought-out migration strategies and integration offerings for Symphony users.

Read the excellent analysis on the recent ABB announcement, plus regular discussions of a variety of automation topics in "Industrial Automation Insider" which is now written and published by Nick Denbow. Web link below.

Click Harmony/INFI 90 on ABB website

Click Industrial Automation Insider website

Click Get your subscription to Automation Insider

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Inbound Marketing in the Automation Industry

In a rare inclusion of material written by someone other than Jim Pinto, we've included this discussion of marketing in the automation business by Jon DiPietro

"Outbound" marketing (indiscriminate advertising to everyone) is broken. Disruptive technologies like blogs and social media, satellite radio, DVRs are making it difficult, if not impossible, to interrupt people with advertising messages.

Today, what's needed is to reverse the outbound model; using "Inbound" marketing with a variety of Internet media to attract customers with content that reflects their wants and needs.

How is the automation industry doing in this regard? Well, the bad news is that they are not doing very well. The good news is that there is lots of room for improvement. The worst news is that it will be very difficult.

I recently completed a series of Inbound marketing evaluations for the web presence of four major automation product vendors - Rockwell, Honeywell, Yokogawa and Emerson. The process scored 26 criteria from 1 to 4 in five categories: Content, search-engine optimization (SEO), social media presence, website conversions and analytics. The aggregate scores were:

  • Content: 2.5
  • SEO: 2.4
  • Social Media Presence: 1.9
  • Website Conversions: 0.9
  • Analytics: 3.0
Any score below 3 is problematic. The numbers are slightly deceptive because Emerson skews the average toward the higher end - with the "Emerson Process Experts" blog. In other words, the true picture for all the others is worse than those scores indicate.

Some conclusions reached from these evaluations were:

  • Most automation vendors have very poor home pages as they relate to inbound marketing. There is a lack of remarkable content and engagement.
  • There is a high degree of domain splitting, which harms search engine optimization.
  • Emerson has a tremendous lead due to their multi-year efforts at generating content and creating an engaged audience. The rest of the industry has a tall hill to climb and few of them have even started.
  • Conversions are the greatest weakness and largest opportunity. Visitors to the automation vendors' websites are given few, if any, calls to action and I did not find a single instance of a landing page.
It won't be easy to change. The automation industry faces two major challenges if they wish to do Inbound-marketing effectively. They are both significant hurdles, so while the answers are fairly simple, the solution most certainly won't be easy.

Challenge #1: Fisher's Fundamental Theorem
This states that the better adapted you are, the less adaptable you are. Another way to think of it is the curse of success: The more successful an organization is, the more it believes in its "formula" and the less likely it is to change that formula, even in the face of major shifts in environmental factors. Inbound marketing requires a degree of nimbleness that is very difficult for large companies to achieve.

Challenge #2: Mixed Norms
Behavioral norms are sets of unwritten rules that dictate acceptable behaviors in different situations. Corporations are used to following economic norms; but social norms are the rule in social media. It's very difficult for these zebras to change their stripes.

Click What is the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

Click Visit Jon DiPietro's blog - Domesticating IT

Click Pre-order Jon DiPietro's Book: Social Media for Engineers & Scientists

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Operator Paradox

Operator interface, annunciators and alarm systems in large automation and processing plants have simply evolved from legacy systems, "enhanced" with a plethora of new features and functions available just by clicking software settings. But effective management is overlooked.

Most process plants keep trying to train operators to cope with the challenges of continually increasing safety and efficiency requirements. In the United States and developed countries, the shortage of experienced operators is compounded by the retirement of an aging workforce. In Second and Third World countries, which is where growth is occurring today, skilled operators are simply not available.

So, when the term "operator interface" is used, who is the operator? And where does one find enough good operators to operate the system? And how long does it take to train them?

Traditionally, operators build knowledge and experience through handling normal production as well as abnormal emergencies and events. They learn how to cope with abnormal situations and emergencies through similar past experiences.

What is needed is for the system to "learn" continuously from operator experiences, normal and abnormal, and that learning should remain in the system, minimizing dependence on experienced human operators.

The operator paradox is this: Improved effectiveness comes not just from training operators to use increasingly more complex systems, but also from developing systems that adapt effectively to maximize throughput with minimal operator involvement. If operators cannot be trained to use the system, the system must adapt to the needs of available operators.

Click Automation World (May 2011) - Operator Paradox

Click Review & buy the PAS Alarm Management Handbook on Amazon.com

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The decline of Offshore Outsourcing

The great rush to outsource jobs to lower-cost labor centers on the other side of the globe appears to be slowing down.

The actual number of jobs outsourced will continue to creep up, but especially in the US, the new wave of outsourcing and relocating jobs is happening at home.

Typically, these are the kinds of jobs that are considered core to the business and they require much higher skills and training than what is available offshore. That won't really change much anytime soon.

What's interesting about on-shoring is that it's not in competition with offshoring or outsourcing. By and large, the jobs that have left will not come back. The exceptions are the high-level jobs that were originally sent offshore, with poor results. Those jobs are coming back.

In a recent survey, CFOs were asked the one location they might consider for future outsourcing. The US was No. 1 (22%), followed by China (16%), India (13%), Southeast Asia (including the Philippines) (7%), Latin America (7%), Western Europe (6%), Canada (5%) and Eastern Europe (3%). That order is surprising, since India has long been the most popular outsourcing destination.

Many companies are not shifting IT work to onshore and offshore outsourcing providers as fast as they can because many now realize they made mistakes in some earlier outsourcing decisions and are bringing work back. The ones who have reversed earlier offshore outsourcing decisions had varying reasons: Some thought they had moved into outsourcing too quickly and outsourced the wrong things; others picked the wrong provider, had bad contracts or just weren't prepared to do it any more for whatever reason.

Will this pulling away from outsourcing continue? Likely.

Click CFOs Say Offshore Outsourcing to Decline

Click Forbes - Outsourcing Closer to Home

Click Q&A: The Overseas Outsourcing Rush Is Over

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CrowdSourcing - Digital Meritocracy

Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to an undefined, large group of people or community (a "crowd"), through an open call.

The concept of crowdsourcing depends essentially on the fact that because it is an open call, it gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas.

As the amount of digital work increases and the amount of physical work decreases, our notions of employment and "work" change profoundly. Digital work doesn't require roads and factories; it requires computers and an Internet connection - equipment that people have access to almost anywhere. The needs for offices, supervisors and rigid employment arrangements disappear.

As technology improves, companies will be able to access the perfect person for a given job - the one who will do the job the best, enjoy it the most or do it the fastest. All these factors combine in a way that will change the landscape of work.

Current hiring processes typically involve online research about candidates on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Articles, portfolios, presentations and papers by potential job candidates are increasingly found online. Internet companies like oDesk and Elance rate workers based on past work rather than on what college they attended.

Individuals become their own companies, responsible for marketing themselves, negotiating their rates and deciding which work to pursue. There will be less wage "stickiness" (this is what I'm used to being paid) and people with unique skills will be paid what those skills are worth in the open market. Everyone who is capable of doing good work will have access to as many jobs as are available. And they can pick and choose.

This new "digital meritocracy" is evolving quickly. The rise of digitally distributed work will reverse the trend of urbanization (where the jobs were) over the next few decades.

There will be a global decrease in unemployment. This extrapolation is counterintuitive but consider this: Google, Amazon and other high-tech companies are actually pushing for new jobs with more human involvement. These kinds of jobs didn't exist before.

This is the future of work.

This eNews item was largely based on the Forbes article: The Digital Meritocracy, link below.

Click Forbes - How crowdsourcing will change the way the world works

Click Crowdsourcing (Wikipedia)

Click Crowdsourcing as a Model to Engage Followers and Build Brand Equity

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Dan Trudeau [dtrudeau@prausa.com] appreciated my recommendation of the book, "Lights in the Tunnel". He wrote:
    "I think this book addresses the crux of our economic problems. Most of the solutions people are offering to our economic woes revolve around keeping our previous economic model afloat.

    "The most important person in setting up this model was Henry Ford, who realized his production line was such a value generator that he could offer more money for less time on the job. This freed up people to spend more, thus creating the economic growth that dominated the Twentieth Century.

    "The problem now is the production process is commoditized. Anyone can do it anywhere. On top of that, with the advent of the Information Age you need less and less people to get things done. When these processes are commoditized, so are the people who work on them.

    "Instead of working hard to protect this model we need to create a new one, while keeping some structures in place to dampen the blow of the transition. I wish I were more confident about this being done, but you don't even see the conversation happening in the public space.

    "Heck, we still have subsidies in place to prop up our agricultural market. That model went out a century ago. If we are to make any progress, we need to get people educated on the topic. It's the only thing that will push the decision-makers forward.

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Brett Truett was reading his latest copy of JimPinto.com eNews while visiting in Shanghai, China:

    "Just want to say hello, and how much I love your information and writing! This month I'm reading your eNews in Shanghai, China.

    "Attempting to gain a foothold selling to & buying to/from China. In addition, getting closer to buying a very small machine shop in Frankfurt, Germany. Your writing seems very in tune with my efforts.

    "While my small firm deals in little 'bent pieces of metal and molded Plastic', I'm envisioning wonderful ways that combine much of what you write about. So, our little micro global firm leaves most fabricators way behind (in our little niche anyway). My biggest drawback? Myself and my 'inventor's mind', not always the best tool for all else that must be done :-)

    "However, reading your eNews and opinions this AM in Shanghai ('Labor Day' in China), after a nice morning coffee and mfg. industry news clippings outside a cafe, really makes me happy - and hopeful - not only for my company, but the world's future too.

    "Jim, I'm hoping you're 'turned off' and 'enjoying bird's voices!'"

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My old friend and colleague Tony Bowker [TonyBowker@aol.com] sent this about 3D printing:

    "I was surprised that you wrote that 3D printing is currently used 'just by hobbyists and in a few academic and industrial niches.'

    "My Formula-1 friends have been doing exactly that for about 7-8 years. There was a video of the Red Bull team generating suspension parts; it looks like they grow out of the resin. I think Wantage have been doing it even longer. I'm not sure, but I suspect Boeing are doing 3D printing for 777 parts."

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